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Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  4,021 ratings  ·  248 reviews
Allan Gurganus's Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All became an instant classic upon its publication. Critics and readers alike fell in love with the voice of ninety-nine-year-old Lucy Marsden, one of the most entertaining and loquacious heoines in American literature.

Lucy married at the turn of the last century, when she was fifteen and her husband was fifty. If Colo
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Paperback, 736 pages
Published October 16th 2001 by Vintage (first published 1984)
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Best Southern Literature
96th out of 784 books — 1,874 voters
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Best Historical Fiction
457th out of 4,490 books — 18,051 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Suzanna
I could not finish this book. For the most part, every page was a chore. The few times there was a story relayed from the husband's Civil War experience, I was engaged. Otherwise, I found the main character far too abrasive and obnoxious to enjoy myself. She might be very entertaining to sit and talk with, or listen to on a radio program, but for some reason, by reading in this format we had a personality conflict.

Additionally, there was heavy focus on subjects that didn't feel pertinent. Page
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Courtney Anthony
This book is a gift to anyone who can read English. I realize that many reviews accuse it of being overly long, but it's called Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells ALL, not Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells A Story or Two. The novel is indeed seven-hundred and some pages long, but think of it as an opportunity for settling in and truly getting to know Mrs. Lucille Marsden. Enjoy her narrative while it lasts, because you'll miss her when it's over. Trust me.



It is astounding to me that this
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Caroline
Whenever I'm reading this book I remember how much I love it, and yet after I've finished it and moved on to other things I forget it. I don't forget what happens or what it's about - I forgot how much I like it. It's strange.

It's a big old rambling book - the personal recollections of Lucille Marsden, married at fifteen to a Confederate war veteran a good forty years older than her. It's not told in any kind of narrative order, it skips and jumps backwards and forwards through the years, things
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Sally Burnell
Have you ever picked up a book simply because the title intrigued you? This was just such a book, and once I cracked it open, it became impossible to put it down. It was one of the most compelling and memorable books I have read in years and it has stayed with me all these years since I read it. It is one of the most unforgettable books I have ever read and tells the story of a 15 year old girl, Lucy, who marries a 51 year old Confederate veteran, naively not knowing what she was getting herself ...more
Fenixbird SandS
Quoting excerpts from this extraordinary book: "11 days after the fire comes the afternoon of leaving. Children make extra-secret jaunts to the woods. Like going to a zoo, or visiting some charming friend in jail. How strange the furnishings look resting out here, half under tarps. The Brookside glade makes treasures seem more valuable and perfect. A test for beautiful furniture: Does it still look beautiful in a beautiful woods?"

Gurganus' descriptions are vivid, almost liquid! You can breathe
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Mary Bettcher
I read this book years ago and found it one of the most poignant , funny and at times, achingly sad books I've ever read.The widow is delivering her recollections to an aide at her nursing home circa early 1970's I believe. She had been born some time after the Civil War but her much older husband had been a Confederate colonel. Her recollections stem from his experiences and her own post war memories. The horrors or the Civil War come alive and yet somehow,there were periods of laugh out loud h ...more
Linda B.D.
I waited a few days, read the book again before I changed my review. My first review bothered me because I had left out important details. Final review: This is NOT about the Civil War. Supposedly told by a 100 year old woman to a writer. She told her story of being married to a Confederate War veteran.(After the war). He had PTSD & she ended up with it as well.(from him). I wish it kept on a straighter path. Too much back & forth from the war to her present time. By her age of 24 yrs ol ...more
Alicia
I probably shouldn't say I read this book because I only read 50 of the 700 pages. I did watch the movie, though. Does that count?

The narrator, Lucille (Lucy) Marsden, tells the story of her marriage to "Captain" Will Marsden, the Civil War's last survivor, whom she married when she was 15 and he was 51!! She also tells about her husband's experiences in the war, the burning of her mother-in-law's plantation by Sherman's men, and the abduction from Africa of a former Marsden slave, midwife to Lu
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Melody
Dec 03, 2012 Melody rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melody by: Ellen Sullivan
I'm going to tell you the biggest drawbacks of this book right up front. First - I had tried to read it several years ago and abandoned it. Almost abandoned it this time too. I had to read past the obligatory 100 pages before it engaged me. And believe the title when it says "tells all". My copy was 875 pages long. Which is plenty long. But this book had a way of not letting you seem to be making any progress. I'd be one inch into the book. Read for a week. And still be only one inch into the bo ...more
Michele
Possibly the longest book I've read where, when I finished it, I wanted to go back and read it again. As a Northerner, at the time I read it, I was rather clueless about the Civil War and the South. I'm mildly more clued-in these days, but this book helped open up a voice and an attitude for me that had not been there before.

The writing is dramatic, to the point where I'm sure some readers found it too far over the top to deal with. I have read the "scene" of the heroine's mother's childhood enc
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Julie
This is one of my all time favorite books. I read it some years ago, but still have my copy. This should definitely return to my "to read" list.

The narrator, Lucille (Lucy) Marsden, tells the story of her marriage to "Captain" Will Marsden, ostensibly the Civil War's last survivor, whom she married when she was 15 and he was 50. She also tells about her husband's experiences in the war and after, the burning of her mother-in-law's plantation by Sherman's men, and the abduction from Africa of a
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Andrea
This library book, besides being already one of the best books I've ever read, had a bonus: someone had saved some flowers in the pages, pressed and dried but still beautiful.

Now that I finally finished reading this book, I can unequivocally say it's the best book I've ever read, based on the quality of the writing, the story, the development of the characters, the insights into human behavior, including mine, the humor, the honesty, the fact that I could have kept on reading for another 700 pa
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Sandy
I loved this book so much that I ordered the DVD, but then I love stories about the 1800s.
I could identify with Ms. Marsden because I have raised children. I have been a wife. Some of her insight brought me comfort just knowing that someone else walked down similar paths I have, and even worse. Reading this book made me grateful that I live in a time of peace in our nation. Grateful for the modern day comforts we enjoy. I enjoyed the friendship Ms. Marsden and Castilia came to know. I even fell
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Patricia dumas
Wow.. What a tale.

The south in all its pitiful glory, angst, grit and guts; It's protocol that lost the war-- a sense of lost gentility and ignorance.

Just when you get to maybe like the heroine Lucy's husband, your faith is cut short.

Through 9 children, and a longing to find something useful in herself, Lucy fails, and succeeds-- then fails and succeeds again.

Never again will you look at a "romantic" southern mansion the same. It's not romantic, as I learned in this fabulously written novel.

Lov
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Candy
I tried really hard to finish this book. While the confederate widow herself was a very colorful character with quite a story to tell, the book was written like a elderly person rambling on and on and on, whether anyone was listening or not. The character bounced back and forth between the past and the present and the present didn't enhance the story at all. I think this story could have been written much better. It has the makings of a really good story. I gave up reading this book.
Amy
I read Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All *once* years and years ago (maybe more than 20(?) years ago, now). I can't quite pinpoint exactly what impact this story had on me, but there are times that I *still* think about scenes from this book. Something about it just got into me and stayed put. And I tell you what, give me Lucy Marsden over that annoying Scarlett O'Hara any day.
Linda Robinson
I have loaned this book to friends, all of whom couldn't finish it.

Ellen Burstyn opened in a Broadway show of the same name, and it closed that night.

I'm confused. This is a darn good read. And a beautiful first novel!

What do I find fascinating about it? And why don't my friends share?
KKG
Jul 29, 2009 KKG is currently reading it
Long and kinda boring, but it has its moments. Definitely not for a person picky on historical accuracy.
Lani
I'd tried to read this book several times. It is one of the slowest paced but still decent books I've ever read. I'm glad I finally finished, but I can't say I would recommend it to... well, anyone I can think of.

I'm a Civil War buff and I'm always intrigued by the female perspective. The title character (Lucy) is a pretty interesting premise to start with... a young boy went off to war, grew up and got old, and married a young girl. Lucy ends up married to a Confederate veteran and living with
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Cameron
I feel bad reviewing this book because quite honestly I couldn't finish it. I had listened with delight to an audio version (severely abridged to three hours) but the book was just too wordy. Gurganus is a truly gifted writer, but this book could easily lose 500 pages, as there is just too much verbiage and the reader gets frustrated and bored. The audio version allows you to enjoy the language, the convoluted storytelling, the weird horror of living with a traumatized ex-soldier for decades aft ...more
Amanda
The scope of this book is huge. It goes right back to a young boy joining the great Confederate army, and how his experiences in the war mark him for life. Other fascinating characters are the Widow herself, who was practically a child when she married her older husband, the woman who is both her friend and her husband's mistress, and a veritable host of other friends and relatives.
The story jumps back and forth from the 1860s to the 1980s, examining life from many different perspectives - male,
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Jen3n
Several of my favorite novels, I have discovered, were written by people who had no business writing a novel like that. This is one of them.

Allan Gurganus managed to write a novel about the past hundred and fifty years in the deep south, in the voice of a woman, while keeping it sincere, engaging, realistic, and entertaining. The characters feel real. Even the people who only inhabit the book for a page. This book takes an historical time and makes it a breathing place; if that distinction makes
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Les Wolf
I laughed and cried...astounding story of little woman, her confederate veteran husband and a host of supporting characters:
the beautician, the mink farmer, the Chinese tailor, the dandy General, the child soldier singer, the girl artist who sketches the dying and so many more who populate the hills and river valleys of North Carolina and Virgina from 1860 to 1980. Willie Marsden's many best stories are told by his widow, Lucille who has lived through it all. Both factual and fictional, philosop
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Timothy Juhl
May 28, 2008 Timothy Juhl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Southern bookclubs and anyone looking for great literature.
Shelves: gay-author
Officially, what I consider a tome, Gurganus' masterpiece, is one of the finest examples of historical fiction, and particularly the Civil War.

Forget the dreadful made-for-television movie, forget 'Gone With The Wind'. There is a langorous chapter midway into the story that depicts Sherman's March to the sea, told by the plantation owners and slaves who watched the plumes of smoke from distant homes, knowing their lives would be burned out from under them very soon. The images evoked in this cha
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Linds
This book was a huge best seller in the 80's when it came out but I can't see the appeal.

Lucy married a 50 year old confederate war veteran when she was 15. Reading this book. I actually stopped reading and I thought, there was no way a woman wrote this because of the way the character spoke and the internal monologue thought process. So I looked at the author, and sure enough, it was a man. I knew it. It comes across as an ill-informed man writing about the inner workings of the female mind. So
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Deb
It would have been better at half the length and with 70% fewer characters. It was hard to motivate to read it beyond page 400 or so. Many characters are discussed at various times but their stories are not closed. Stories within are told in no chronological order and it is often difficult to place the current story in the life of the narrator and in relation to other stories (did the baby die before or after the son was blinded?) Interesting voice for the narrator.
Sherry
I almost didn't give this four stars because it was much too long. The book would have been strengthened if that widow hadn't told quite all. Less would have been better, especially toward to end when all of a sudden she's telling a story about someone we've never even heard of before. But, it is beautifully written, with some insights that are quite moving and real.
Jackie
I originally got this to give to someone else as a gift and then decided it wasn't quite the right thing. It was quite a while after that that I actually read it myself. Once I got into the swing of Gurganus' Deep South dialogue, I really enjoyed this. He has a gift for making you hear his characters' voices, in the tone and dialect he intends.
Nancy Baumann
This is one of the best books I've ever read. It's long , very long, but well worth the journey. The writing is beautiful and ,at times, I had to put it down just to savor a line, and that happened numerous times. When I finished it, I felt like I had lost an old and close friend, and had to mourn that for a few days.
Candi
I got to about page 600 of 875 before I remembered that I'd promised myself not to read any more trash.

What was often a heart-rending recalling of tragic Civil War events from the narrator would then turn into the mental wanderings of a near pedophile.

Couldn't finish it. WOULDN'T finish it. No apologies.
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